Tag Archives: Occupy Wall Street

The Morning Grumpy – 1/11/2012

11 Jan

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Last night in his victory speech, Mitt Romney asked Americans to reject the “bitter politics of envy” and to not be “dragged down by a resentment of success”.  As Paul Krugman put it yesterday,

“Romney evidently has no sense of what it’s like NOT to be the very wealthy son of an already wealthy father; no idea how the fear of unemployment or medical bills afflicts ordinary Americans.”

Of course, Romney advocates for massive tax cuts for the wealthy while sticking it to regular schmoes.

According to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, the average tax cuts received by the richest 1 percent of Americans under the Republican plans would be 270 times as large as the cut received by the middle class.

So, please, don’t resent him for his money or his 1% politics of money hoarding. That would be class warfare. And shut the hell up or he’ll buy your company and fire your ass, cubicle slave!

2. Hey, remember friend of Jimmy Griffin and Operation Rescue christian nutjob, Randall Terry? He’s running for President and he plans to air Super Bowl ads in 40 cities across the country.

Anti-abortion ads showing graphic images of aborted fetuses covered in blood and surrounded by religious icons will air during the Super Bowl in February, courtesy of Democratic Presidential candidate Randall Terry. Terry, who has spent a year in jail and been arrested 50 times for his anti-abortion efforts, is using a Federal Election Commission loophole that ensures ads for political candidates cannot be prohibited within 45 days of an election. Apparently, primaries count, so Terry will be running ads on local stations during Super Bowl XLVI February 5

It’s a crazy fucking country.

3. When Republican candidates want to increase turnout amongst the base, they usually warn about “socialism” (code word for ‘black people wanna take your stuff’), warn that pinko Democrats are coming for the guns and that ZOMG, TEH GAYS WANNA GET MARRIED!

If Democrats need a social issue to rally around this year for some good, old-fashioned fear mongering, how about this? Republicans are coming for your porn. 

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich in a face-to-face meeting: When asked by MIM staff if he will enforce existing laws that make much hard-core adult pornography illegal, he responded, “Yes, I will appoint an Attorney General who will enforce these laws.”

If we’re the godless secularist humanists they claim we are, we need to GET TO THE VOTING BOOTHS!

4. Here’s a few facts to use next time you find yourself talking with someone who doesn’t get why those “damn, dirty hippies” are still Occupying around the country.

The rich have gotten richer, thanks to the stock market and the Bush tax cuts, a recent report has found.

Growth in income from capital gains and dividends has widened the divide between the wealthy and the poor in recent years, according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service. It supplanted wage inequality as the primary driver of the growing income gap, which helped spur the Occupy Wall Street movement last fall.

After-tax income for the top 1% of taxpayers soared 74%, on average, between 1996 and 2006. The top 0.1% benefited even more, nearly doubling their income over that decade.

By comparison, the bottom 20% of taxpayers saw their income fall by 6%, while the middle quintile experienced a meager 10% gain.

I know this is, as Mitt Romney says, “the bitter politics of envy”, but I like to call it “the middle class keeps getting ‘f’d in the a'”. Read the full report here.

5. In case you’re not one of the 17 people who watched Face The Nation on CBS this past Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let us in on a little secret. Panetta admitted that despite all the rhetoric, Iran is not pursuing the ability to split atoms with weapons, saying it is instead pursuing “a nuclear capability.” That “capability” falls in line with what Iran has said for years: that it is developing nuclear energy facilities, not nuclear weapons.

“I think the pressure of the sanctions, the diplomatic pressures from everywhere, Europe, the United States, elsewhere, it’s working to put pressure on them,” Panetta explained on Sunday. “To make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.

Maybe this might chill some of the rapidly increasing rhetoric about going to war with Iran, right? Probably not.

Fact Of The Day: Calling the death penalty process “arbitrary and capricious, and therefore immoral,” Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 condemned inmates, clearing his state’s death row two days before leaving office.

Quote Of The Day: “If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.” – Christopher Hitchens

Bible Verse Of The Day: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.” – Leviticus 20:10

Song Of The Day: “Take Your Whiskey Home” – Van Halen

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Visits #OWS

5 Nov

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The Tyranny of the Economists

19 Oct

The economists have won. Often called “the miserable science” by those who study it, economics has cleared all its foes from the Field of Popular Ideas. Is it any wonder we’re all so glum?

I’m not sure what championship date to put on the trophy, but I’m ready to award it after the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests, a movement that uses economic strata as its prime rhetorical conceit. That “money” is a popular subject is not surprising, especially now that we are in the middle of a seemingly unending recession. But money and economics is our favorite subject in good times as well, now to a near monopoly (pun intended) of public discourse, overwhelming our conversations about other things our society claims we love. Can you talk about hockey without the salary cap, the NFL without big vs small market teams, or movies without their revenue on opening weekend? The consumer motif pervades, from internet content to good government to healthcare reform to school-choice in education. The traction-gaining Libertarian movement extols us to see our daily interactions and relationships as simply mutually beneficial economic exchanges. Politics is about campaign finance reform and Buffalo architecture is about drawing tourism dollars. The business and economic side of every endeavor dominates.

Part of this is obviously harmless shorthand. Calling something a $100 million movie or $250,000 house is a convenient way to quickly express how popular or large something is. But words matter, especially when used so often and exclusively that the shorthand becomes the reality. We have very few discussions anymore about what government programs do, just how much they cost (see: the last year of Washington budget debates). Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently appeared before a Congressional subcommittee to discuss $450 billion in cuts over ten years. As far as I can tell, the talk was almost exclusively about the dollar figure, and not specific weapon systems, readiness, or the current missions of the armed forces. The arts funding debate in Erie County was never a comparison of the relative merits of the art/architecture/science draw of any particular museum or theater. To the arts proponents it was about funding cuts, and to County Executive Collins it was about attracting tourists. 

Economics has its place, but not every place. We don’t seem to collectively spend a lot of time on liberty or fraternity or art or astrophysics. . . at least, not without discussing their economic implications. We talk about market forces. We talk about tax incentives. We’ve traded Sagan for Krugman. The brightest minds of the last two generations are focused on how to make money from buying and selling money, wealth creation above all.

I can think of few segments or endeavors in American society not smothered with a business blanket. Perhaps the most mainstream unencumbered trend is the food movement, in all of its slow, local, heritage and organic forms. And while hardly a foodie myself, I can respect that I rarely hear how expensive a food item is in relation to how good it tastes or how healthy it is for you; the $7 steak is the land of gimmicky 1970’s Las Vegas promotions. That the foodiest amongst us often have the personal wealth to not worry about how much extra the foie gras topping costs on their $25 burger is perhaps part of the reason why.   

What is undeniable is that the two largest political movements today, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, are both fundamentally about money. The Tea Party is focused on the government’s: taxes and debt. Occupy Wall Street is skipping the bankrupt government and is heading right to the source, seeking it in the only place it seems to remain. The Tea Party wants to keep the money they have, Occupy Wall Street wants the opportunity (read: money) they feel they were promised. In a former age, veterans marched on Washington for their bonus check. Note how the balance of power has shifted to the unelected corporation; economics has won.

It’s Occupy Wall Street’s focus on the lost opportunity that makes me perk my ears up. There are many reasons occupiers are piling up in town squares across the country. How could there not be for a movement that claims to represent 99% of the population? But one consistent theme is the fundamental unfairness of the “system.” Last Friday’s On Point program discussed the rise of for-profit colleges, the University of Phoenix being only the most well known. This $25 billion industry (see, I did it too), of which $23 billion comes from federal Pell grants and loans, sells the dream that the younger Occupy Wall Streeters are so disillusioned by. The story I keep hearing goes something like this: my parents and high school guidance counselor told me that if I went to college I could get a job. So I went to college, and took out huge loans, and now I’m unemployed. You guys screwed me. I’m the 99%.

Ignore for a moment that the parents and high school guidance counselors were basically right: the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is 5.4%, versus 10.3% for those with a high school diploma. Instead, just note the tone, how different today’s rhetoric feels compared to the Civil Rights Movement of a near half century ago. I try to refrain from ideology, but I am guilty of this excess: I thought college was for thinking. Put enough smart thinking people together on a college campus in the 1960’s and ’70’s, and large political reform movements were born. And while economic opportunity was certainly part of the fight against racial and gender discrimination, so were voting rights, education, and our basic societal norms and relationships. Are colleges now simply glorified job placement centers?

That we waste college on the young is not a new thought, and fully exploring the topic of higher education reform would require another article on another day. But if economics has won, and college is just about a job, then its time our education system reflected that. Use Germany as a model, and start sorting out children to technical roles and middle management careers in grade school. Triple the size of the community colleges, and make business, accounting, marketing a such programs a two year stint. Suspend President Obama’s call for the United States to lead the world in bachelor degree rates (we’re currently at about 40%), and let only the history and philosophy majors take out $30,000/year loans to learn about Kant. The rest don’t need it, and we could reduce our collective debt load by eliminating loans for years of schooling obviously few care about.

If our most recent graduates don’t feel their understanding of the history of western civilization justifies their loan burden, then let’s save the liberal arts for the Great Courses series. Let’s transform college into a leisure pursuit of the wealthy middle aged. It’s the logical reform to match the goals of those in the system who feel like they have been most let down. Who feel disenfranchised and lied to enough to occupy public parks around the country and demand the opportunity they were promised. College is a mutually beneficial economic interaction, and the system has failed our recent graduates, members of the Millennial Generation, lauded as the most optimistic and idealistic yet. They have made their demands, and it is this: “You said we would have jobs and buy a house. Give me a job.”  Economics has won.

Occupation

3 Oct

HT Marquil at EmpireWire.com